Partially flooded by the construction of the Biricek Dam on the Euphrates River in 2000, the ancient city of Zeugma was originally founded as a Greek settlement by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great’s generals, in 300 BCE.  In 64 BCE, Zeugma was conquered by the Roman Empire.  With the shift to Roman rule, the city grew to become one of the main attractions in the region due to its commercially strategic location on the Euphrates.   The city’s importance only increased when the Fourth Legion settled in a military garrison there.  Artistic activity in the city subsequently increased, as commercial trade and wealth grew.

However, the good times in Zeugma declined along with the fortunes of the Roman Empire. After the Sassanids from Persia attacked the city in 253 CE, its luxurious villas were reduced to ruins and used as shelters for animals. The city’s new inhabitants were mainly rural people who employed only simple building materials that did not survive.  Zeugma’s grandeur and importance would remain forgotten for more than 1,700 years.

For more details about this fascinating history, the Gaziantep Museum is a must, showcasing superb mosaics unearthed at the Roman site of Zeugma before the Birecik Dam flooded the bulk of the site forever.  The second floor has excellent views of virtually complete floor mosaics retrieved from Roman villas, providing a detailed insight into past centuries.  Other incredibly well preserved highlights include the poignant Gypsy Girl and the Birth of Venus mosaics, and modern interactive technology also brings history to life in a compelling way.

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